Ideas: Saul Gowens, founder of Websand

Saul Gowens, Founder and CEO of Websand, shares his insight and advice on the introduction of GDPR

How would you describe the state of your sector at present?

We provide technology for the marketing sector, specifically data management, email marketing, and marketing automation.  So we are in a pretty specific sector. The sector is preparing for massive change due to the introduction of GDPR.

Is it a sector that is considered to be growing, stagnating or even in decline? Is this perception correct?

The death of email marketing has been massively overstated but it’s still a key channel within any integrated marketing strategy. Our sector is growing through evolution.  Email is not just about uploading a list and sending.  It’s now more about integration, data management and automation.  As a result, marketers are moving away from list based sending to more sophisticated data driven marketing platform such as our very own Websand platform.

What are the main opportunities within the sector?

Without question, GDPR provides both the biggest threat and the biggest opportunity within marketing technology.  The changes to data protection on May 25, 2018 will impact every business that uses marketing technology. For platforms that need data to function they need to evolve to provide a compliant solution for their users.

The simple overview is that businesses will need to:

· Understand the definition of personal data and where they hold that data within their systems.

· Understand their responsibilities in relation to the personal data they collect.

· Make it clear to their audience how they use the data they collect. No more 52 page terms and conditions.

· Need to prove that they have ‘explicit’ opt in from their audience, for both processing and marketing.

How can companies/organisations take advantage of these?

Simply put, they need to be ready.  And they need to be ready by May 25, 2018. In some cases it could be a simple update to some policies and procedures, for other businesses it could require some radical re-engineering. In our case, we rebuilt the data collection and management side of our platform to work towards compliance.

Here is a simple example, in some cases, where the solutions are less obvious to the ‘person’, such as remarketing and cart abandonment, you will need to seek ‘opt-in’ from the participant for their data to be collected, and therefore the marketing message to be issued.

Obviously, this is different to a standard ‘newsletter’ signup.  My opinion is that when you start asking people (online) if they want to receive remarketing messages, not many will agree.

If you generate a lot of sales through cart abandonment or remarketing activity, then you need to plan how you can collect consent moving forward, or what the alternative process could be?

What are the biggest challenges/threats to your sector?

Getting ready.  Brexit has had a huge impact on GDPR.  Not in terms of a change in how it will be adopted, it’s one of the few things that has actually been agreed across Europe.  But in terms of awareness. A lot of uncertainty is going around about what will and won’t be affected.  Quite a few grey areas still exist, and a lot of scaremongering is going on. To keep updated, since the ICO are going to be the enforcers of the legislation, the ICO website ( is the best source of information.

How can companies/organisations overcome these?

Here are some simple points to consider to get yourself ready:

1. If you are clear with your audience about how you will use the data you collect, and then you do what you say you are going to do. That’s a great start.

2. If you think your data is out of date and rubbish, then bring in an expert to conduct a data audit for you. That gives you a great starting point to work from.

3. If you market to your audience based on relevance, rather than ‘blasting’ to everyone. You are going to need to take a more sophisticated approach.

Are there any external factors impacting your sector (political, economic, social, technological, legal, environmental etc)?

GDPR is the most pesty piece of legislation for sometime.  It is going to impact pretty much every external factor.

Political – GDPR is new legislation, if you collect data about anyone (including staff) you will need to address this.

Economic – Get it wrong and the fines are significant.  Get it right and it could be a huge opportunity.

Social – When people begin to understand the value of their data, how are they going to react?

Technological – Which technologies are safe to use?  Which technologies will I need to replace to become compliant?

What do you think will be future holds for your sector?

I think we have period of disruption around the corner for marketing technology, the main point will be ownership and control of data.

The main marketing channels are now globally, rather than nationally or regionally controlled.  Importantly, politicians now understand the power of these channels especially social media, which is a marketing channel but not regulated in the same way as other channels.  I expect that to change.

I also expect people to begin to understand the value of the data they generate.  GDPR should provide transparency about how personal data is used to generate revenue for Google, Facebook, Instagram.  Once people understand that, I expect some kind of change to follow.